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So yesterday I was messing around with The Flame in the Flood. It’s a survival rogue-like kind of game. Y’know, you start with nothing, gotta scavenge for materials to make tools, scavange for food, water, that kind of thing. If you die it’s game over. I of course neglected to take screen shots but here’s the launch trailer. Oh yeah, the soundtrack is pretty good, too.

Anyway the two main hooks here:

Hook 1: The world is mostly flooded. You (and your trusty dog companion) are on a raft being swept downstream. At the start you don’t have a lot of control but you do need to avoid collisions with rocks and stuff because your raft takes damage. If it gets destroyed you drown, game over. As you are swept along there will be little islands you can dock at…if you can fight the current to get to them. These are where you’ll scavange/craft/sleep, but each is pretty small and stuff doesn’t respawn. Once you clear out an island you get back on your raft, never to return.

There are different kinds of islands and each is marked by an icon so while the world is randomly generated, after a while you learn what tends to spawn on each kind of island which helps you choose where to go (it is often the case where you can see several but not be able to get to them all since you’re always being swept downstream). The twist to the hook is that the farther you go on the river, the more deadly the islands become. First there is nothing to harm you (other than lack of food/water, or the cold), then there’ll be wild boars that are easily avoided, then wolfs that will track and kill you. And that’s as far as I have gotten.

Hook #2. At the very start of the game you see this dog find a body and a backpack and he drags it (the backpack, not the body) to where you are camped. The dog (Aesop, his name is) will accompany you and he has his own backpack/inventory. Well surprise! When you die and the game starts over… it is the same dog! And whatever you left in his backpack in your previous life is in there, which helps you get a head start.

So some ‘runs’ you’ll just gather good stuff, put it in Aesop’s backpack and then suicide yourself to get a better start on your next run. And that’s about it. It’s not for everyone, but I’m liking it a lot in short sessions. It’s hard and I get frustrated after a few runs and need to take a break, but that’s the nature of rogue-likes.

I’m playing it on Game Pass/Xbox but it is also available on Steam and PS4. It’s an indy so pretty cheap…probably $15 or so when not on sale.

I’ve been playing through the Gears of War games recently. From a gameplay stance, they’re quite fun, but from a narrative point of view they really bug me. The problem is each campaign (I’m about half-way through Gears 3 at this point) has only a few plot points, but each plot point is dragged out to absurd lengths, with every minor task turning into a set of recursive obstacles to overcome. It is so silly that by Gears 3 even the characters are joking about how nothing is ever easy. I feel like these games could’ve been narratively stronger if there was a longer story with more plot points, but with each point being less cumbersome to achieve.

But when it Rome, right? So I decided to write the script/design doc for the next game, Gears of War: Lunch

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Act I: The quest for bread

Marcus Fenix is hungry and is ready for lunch. However when he opens the bread box to make a ham sandwich, he finds nothing but crumbs! Marcus needs to get to the bakery for a loaf of bread. For company he enlists Sam because once she reads this script I’m sure Claudia Black will sign on to do voice talent and every game is improved by the addition of Claudia Black.

Chapter 1: Trees release me
Marcus knows there’s an old jalopy in the garage they can use to get to the bakery. He and Sam leave the house only to find a storm has knocked over a large tree and it is blocking access to the garage.

Goal: Marcus and Sam have to use their chainsaws to cut the tree up into manageable chunks and drag them out of the way.

With that task done, Marcus attempts to flip a giant switch that is supposed to open the garage door. It is jammed! Sam reminds him that there used to be a remote control for the door and maybe that will work. Marcus calls control on his radio, and Anya provides him with the intel that the remote is in the basement of the house.

Chapter 2: Rats!
Marcus and Sam head for the basement only to find it is flooded. “Ah NUTS!” Marcus shouts, “I can’t get my COG-issued boots wet! We have to find a way to drain this water.” Sam suggests that if they cut off the supply of water, it should all drain away. There’s a giant valve along one wall of the basement and boxes of old Christmas ornaments they can walk on to get to it. The only problem is… there are rats in the basement!

Goal: Trap the rats, get to the valve and turn it off

The flood drains away remarkably quickly once Marus turns off the valve. Sam grabs the remote and they head back to sunlight. The remote works and the garage door opens. They jump into the jalopy but… no keys! Sam mentions that she thinks the keys are stored in the attic because where else would you store car keys?

Chapter 3: Photographs and memories
Marcus and Sam head to the attic. It is PACKED with junk…boxes and boxes of old photos, magazines and other assorted junk. On the back wall they can see the keys hanging on a hook, a single shaft of sunlight passes through a crack in the roof and illuminates them.

Goal: This is a puzzle level. Marcus doesn’t want to destroy anything so he has to carefully push and slide boxes to clear a path to the keys. One mistake and he and Sam will be crushed by a pile of old National Geographic magazines

With keys in hand Marcus and Sam return to the jalopy. It starts! “Ah NUTS!” Marcus shouts, “We’re almost out of gas!” “No worries,” Sam says, “There’s a fuel station nearby, let’s head there before going to the bakery.”

Fade to black, cut scene of them driving through suburban streets and pulling into a gas station

Chapter 4: Hard currency

Note: This is a ‘catch your breath’ chapter. Lots of cut scenes, light gameplay.

Marcus pulls up to the gas pump just as the jalopy’s engine sputters and dies, its tank completely empty. Marcus notices a sign “Please pay in advance.”

Goal: Buy some gas (spoiler: unobtainable goal)

Marcus grumbles and heads inside, holds out his credit card. “Sorry, stinkin’ COGS pay cash!” the attendant shouts. Marcus reaches for his lancer but Sam grabs his arm. “There’s an ATM machine in the corner, just take out some cash, this guy isn’t worth your time.” They head to the ATM, Marus puts his card in but nothing happens. “That ain’t worked in weeks!” the attendant cackles. “Circuit board is fried. I ordered a replacement but I haven’t had time to get to the electronics store to pick it up.” Marcus growls, but Sam says “We’ll get the circuit board and fix your ATM if you’ll sell us some fuel, deal?” “Deal!” says the attendant, “But circuit board first, then fuel. The shop is just down the road a ways.”

Marcus calls Anya and gets GPS data to guide them to the electronics shop, but she notes the shop closes early today. He and Sam start running towards the city. This is a timed segment. They have to avoid both foot and vehicle traffic while maintaining a roadie-run through the whole section.

This level leads them into the city proper. However their way is blocked by an overturned bus. They can’t get past it! Marcus casts his gaze up to the tops of the apartment buildings that line the street. “There’s our road” he mutters. They run up to the front door of one of the apartment buildings, but it’s a secure building; they can’t get in. “Let me handle this, you lack tact.” Sam says to Marcus and she starts pushing intercom buttons at random, trying to sweet talk her way into the building. After the 3rd attempt Marcus loses his patience and smashes his fist into the intercom panel, crushing it. The front door inexplicably pops open. “Or that works too.” Sam mutters.

Chapter 5: What a super building

Goal: Reach the roof undetected

This is a stealth level. Marcus and Sam have to move up the stairs to the roof while avoiding the roaming superintendents. For some reason this building has 5 of them and they’re all in the stairwell. Marcus and Sam can briefly exit the stairwell to let a super pass. When they get to the top floor they notice it is being renovated.

Optional: There is a fire alarm when they first enter the building. If Marcus pulls it, the building will be evacuated and he and Sam can run up the stairs without unhindered.

Once on the roof the pair see that they have to cross the gap to the next building and then one more after that to clear the mess in the streets.

Chapter 6: Planks for the memories

Goal: Get to the third rooftop

Marcus looks at the gap between buildings doubtfully. “Don’t think we can jump that,” he says. “We need a bridge.” Sam says, “What about that construction on the top floor?” The two head back into the apartment building to the floor that is being renovated. They find a plank and carry it to the edge of the building and drop it across the gap.

Now they have to carefully walk across it. The player has to manipulate that analog sticks to help the characters keep their balance. Just as they step off onto the 2nd building, the plank slips and falls into the alley below. They are trapped.

The secret to crossing to the third building is that there is a pigeon coop on this roof. Marcus can push it to the edge of the roof and then topple it over, forming a makeshift bridge to rooftop #3. When he starts pushing it the pigeons get free and he has to shoo them away, push the coop, and repeat until he makes it to the edge. Finally the two can cross to building 3.

But the door to the stairwell is blocked!

The last part of this chapter is finding some repelling gear conveniently left in a corner, and repelling down to the street.

Once back on solid ground, the pair approach the electronics store… and it is closed!! There is no way to get the circuit board. “Ah NUTS!” Marcus shouts. “Marcus,” Sam drawls, “Isn’t the bakery just one street over from here? Why don’t we just hoof it?”

They cut through an alley, get to the bakery and see there is a single loaf of bread left. “Mine!” Marcus screams, startling the baker. “Yes sir!” the frightened man says. “Do you take hard currency?” Sam asks. “Of course we do!” says the baker. Marcus and Sam leave the bakery, bread in hand.

Fade to black.

Act 2: Hamming it up

Marcus and Sam are back at the house, in the kitchen. Sam cuts a few slices off the bread while Marcus goes to the fridge. He opens the door, peers inside. “Ah NUTS!” Marcus shouts. “We’re out of ham! We need to get to the butcher shop, stat!”

I’ve been lazy this year and not doing re-caps of the E3 press conferences. If you missed them I would direct your gaze to Aggronaut and Levelcapped. Both Belghast and Scopique have been doing good recaps.

I still need to chip in on which events were my favorite though. AKA who ‘won’ E3 (at least at my house).

Losers:
EA — They held their event Saturday (remember when all the press conferences happened during the week…then MS did that Cirque du Soleil thing on a Sunday one year and that seemed to make it OK to do events on Sunday, and now EA has pushed things back to Saturday) which I bet pissed off the press who had to go to LA another day earlier. And for what? to see a little bit of Anthem (which I am excited about) and that’s about it. I remember a brief glimpse of Battlefield 5 and legit can’t remember what else they showed.

Square-Enix — No need for this to be a ‘live’ event, it was just 30 minutes of trailers. Mind you I am all over Shadow of the Tomb Raider but as an event I thought it was a weak show.

Sony — Weird show mostly focusing on games that we already knew were coming. My theory is that Sony is re-oriented their announcement schedule so they can announce things closer to launch (MS is definitely doing this) which lead them to not be ready to announce 2020 and beyond titles, so all they had to show were 2018 & 2019 titles that we already knew about. Whatever the reason, it was not a great show. I will play the bejeesus out of The Last of Us II and Ghost of Tsushima but I already knew I’d be doing that before the event started (cuz Naughty Dog and Sucker Punch, duh!).

Winners:
Microsoft — I felt like MS came out swinging, showing off a ton of games, I think 15 of which were premieres. Granted they did that “lets push the ‘exclusive’ branding as far as possible” thing, labeling as exclusive seemingly anything that had either an exclusive Xbox console launch window or exclusive extra content. Even with that, there was a ton to see and they re-affirmed their commitment to bringing us more actual exclusives in future by mentioned the acquisition of 5 studios and there was also a quick mention that yes, they are working on their next console (a response, I assume, to the pundits that keep predicting the death of consoles in favor of streaming services). Then of course they finished the show with a trailer for Cyberpunk 2077.

The 2nd half of Bethesda — Bethesda split their show between Bethesda Gaming Studio games and Bethesda Softworks titles. The latter covers ID games, Arkane Studios games, Machine Games titles and the like. ID games aren’t really my thing so Rage 2 and Doom and Quake game annoucements didn’t excite me much, but the 2nd half when Todd Howard came out and talked about the Elder Scrolls, Fallout and now Starfield franchises I really enjoyed. Mind you, I have some hesitations around the Fallout 76 multiplayer stuff but we’ll see.

Ubisoft — I felt like this was the best event for me. I went in already excited about The Division 2 and was even more excited after the show, and the October release date of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey thrilled me. I can’t wait to get my grubby mitts on that one. Ubioft has such a wide variety of games that it felt like they had something for everyone and the cringe factor was very low. (The new Trials game presentation being the exception..that was awkward.)

So that’s a wrap for me. In my house, Ubisoft is the ‘winner’ of E3 this year but of course this is all super subjective. I guess Nintendo has something going on today but there’s really nothing I enjoy about the Switch so… I doubt anything is going to sway me, and anyway it’s just a canned video.

If I was one of the cool kids this post would be about how E3 is no longer relevant or about how all game publishers pump out trailers full of lies or some other angry rant.

But I’m not cool and I LOVE E3. When I was a kid every year we’d get the Sears Wish Book… this was a fat catalog of stuff for the Christmas season, about half of it toys and games. I knew I wouldn’t get much (any?) of the things in that book but I still loved leafing through it. E3 is the closest thing I have to that feeling as an adult.

I just love games and I love watching trailers and seeing announcements, even of games that I know I’ll probably never play. It’s fun watching trends come and go, watching the technology improve, and just seeing what’s to come. Yeah I know a lot of the trailers I see won’t actually be representative of the final game. I don’t care because I’m not making buying decisions based on a trailer and because I’m aware enough to watch them as their own thing. Perfect example: I have zero interest in Overwatch and will never play it, but I love the character trailers.

I was fortunate enough to attend the first couple of E3s and I had a blast. I was working at a gaming magazine at the time and my fellow editors bemoaned having to go, but I just loved the energy and the chaos and the over-stimulation that came with being on the show floor. These days, of course, I just watch streams, and honestly I don’t even watch that much E3-proper. Mostly I just love “E3 Season,” that being my way of grouping the show proper with all the press events that happen around it. I watch all the press events with the same glee that other people tune into the most recent Star Wars or Marvel super hero movie.

I think we need the core event just to act like a magnet to pull together all these companies and press events and game reveals into one super-charged week of gaming fun. Sure, Sony and MS and Ubisoft and Bethesda could all hold press events on their own but I don’t think it would be the same. I think having a live audience adds a lot to the press events (the wild cheers, the awkward silences when the script clearly allows a pause for those non-existent cheers) and having everyone in one place means you’re getting a more rounded crowd (I think).

The only downside is that the industry is so leaky these days. In Ye Olden Tymes E3 would be full of actual surprise reveals but those are becoming more and more rare. For a while E3 was also becoming diluted as publishers held back reveals for PAX shows or some other event, but that seems to have tailed off somewhat. Now we have E3 and Gamescom and that’s about it. Maybe the Videogame Awards in December.

As to speculation? I don’t have much. I’m interested to see what Microsoft does. They’re weathering a self-induced lull in game announcements. They have announced that they are investing in more first party games (to combat the “no exclusives” problem Xbox has) but they’ve also decided to hold back on announcing games until they are close to release. Given the length of the development cycle that means it’ll be a few years before they start announcing the games from this new initiative. Last year around this time Phil Spencer said they had new IPs in the works but they were “2-3 years out” so it was too early to announce them. So figuring those games are now at best 1-2 years out… is it still too early? Guess we’ll see.

Sony is changing their format to primarily focus on a few games. I think in part that might be due to the fact that Sony is the last press event to happen and now EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda and Square-Enix all have press events ahead of Sony. Assuming these publishers want to announce their own games, that doesn’t leave a lot of 3rd party reveals for Sony.

I don’t anticipate any new hardware this year unless MS has some kind of VR/AR headset announcement (which I hope it does). The Xbox One X is still sparkling with newness and Sony has already said PS5 is 3 years out. Nintendo is still riding the Switch wave, so I don’t imagine any new console announcements this year.

Anyway, the fun starts Saturday afternoon (with EA kicking things off). I’m stocking up on drinks and snacks and my ass is gonna be on the couch enjoying the spectacle.

Messing around in casual mode. Still managed to wreck a truck, though!
I was streaming this on the Xbox so there was a big twitch ‘now streaming’ banner across all the prompts so when I can’t figure out how to do something and the screen is telling me how to do it… that’s why!! LOL C’mon MS fix the Twitch app!

I’m sort of fascinated by games like Euro Truck Simulator but that one isn’t available on consoles. To the best of my knowledge, Mud Runner is the closest thing on consoles. My biggest gripe with it is that there’s not a huge amount of ‘game’ to it. As far as I can see your goal is to pick up logs in one spot, deliver them to a lumber mill. That’s it. There’s no progression or economic aspect. You unlock new trucks just by driving up to them. You don’t improve gear or anything like that.

But still, it hearkens back to both 6 year old me playing with toy trucks in the dirt, and 20 year old me going off-roading with friends in our 4x4s. It’s not a game I feel the need to boot up every day, but every so often I just get the itch. It’s a really chill game, good for late at night when things are starting to wind down.

Just goofing around collecting hides and stuff — Watch live at https://ift.tt/2KqC6JG

Somehow this weekend I found myself back in The Elder Scrolls Online. A random YouTube video triggered my desire to log in and once I did I remembered there’d been some big changes since I last played. One of those was the new Skill Adviser, a system intended to help players spend skill points as they level up.

One of TESO’s biggest barriers up until this point was that you could really gimp your character if you didn’t get the build right. As a newbie, the best way to avoid that was to do some research on the web to find a build put together by an advanced player and follow that. It’s what I did and honestly it wasn’t all that fun, but it did work.

The Skill Adviser [hereafter, SA], I assumed, was Zenimax’s way to obviate the need to turn to the web.

I decided to take it for a spin. I was playing on Xbox where I didn’t have any capped characters or high-level characters so I was, I thought, a good proxy for a new player. I did have a level 29 Stamina Templar and I started there. I reset his skill points and dove into the adviser.

For each class they offer 5 builds: a “newcomer” build, a Stamina DPS, a Magica DPS, a Tank build and a Healer build. The “newcomer” build for Templar is based on Magica and I didn’t want to reset my attribute points, and as rusty as I was I didn’t want to go Tank, so I chose the Stamina DPS build.

I have to say, it was a struggle. The build had you take just one self-heal and it was the one (sorry, I forget the name) that relies on having corpses laying around. My SA-specced StamPlar did fine fighting crowds of above ground mobs (I should note that all my testing has been done solo and outside of dungeons) but when a story quest led me to a 1 on 1 fight with a powerful opponent and no trash mobs to leech health from, I was doomed unless I had plenty of room to kite (the build pushes you towards dual wield and bow). I fought one end-of-mission boss (in a confined area) a dozen times before rage-quitting the mission. Finally I went ‘off plan’ and put a couple points into healing skills so I could self-heal and started doing MUCH better.

My assumption is that the Stam Templar DPS build it intended for group play with a healer. Or possibly for more advanced players who have access to better gear, better food and better potions.

My next test was a level 8 Dragonknight. I re-specced him and started following SA Dragonknight Tank build. Seems a natural fit. I almost immediate ran into problems where the SA was telling me to take skills I hadn’t unlocked yet. Further I never would unlock them because it never told me to take skills from the same line with lower requirements (which would cause that skill line to grow until the one it wanted me to take unlocked). I ditched that one quickly.

For my 3rd and final test I rolled a new character, a Nightblade, and followed the ‘newcomer’ build. It had me go Magica and so far this build is WEIRD but is working well. I’ve held my own against world bosses (can’t solo them but don’t get pancaked immediately) and delve bosses are no problem. I’ve had fights that have been a struggle but not an over-whelming struggle. More of “OK that didn’t work, let’s try another tactic” struggle, which are so satisfying when your new tactic works.

So why is it weird? At level 20 I have not put a single point into a weapon skill or an armor passive. Everything has gone into the Nightblade skill trees, including passives. One passive rewards wearing heavy armor so for now that’s what I’m doing, which seems crazy right? I’m running dual-wield on the front bar mostly because aesthetically it fits the combat style (a lot of nightblade skills are based on stabbing and such). So here is a magica-based, plate-wearing dual-wield ninja, teleporting into combat, then vanishing from sight and hitting again with a stun. Very mobile build…in heavy armor. On my back bar I put my single buff and my single dot (the other slots being dupes of the front bar for now) and I’m using a Restoration Staff (what?) that has a mana leech ability. Basically if I run low on mana I switch over to the staff to leech some from the target, but most of my time is on the front bar.

At some point I’ll go off-plan since I have like 7 skill points I can’t spend yet since I’m waiting for my class-abilities to level up enough to use them. But I’m waiting to see how far I can get just following the SA.

I have been told that at level 40 you get a free respec coupon as a level up reward. Based on my findings and that fact, I think the “intended” way to use the Skill Adviser is to start a new character, follow the “Newcomer” build to level 40, and then if desired switch to a more focused build. By that time all your class skill lines will be leveled up (as well as whatever weapons you’ve chosen to use). I also think we need to take the name literally: this is a Skill ADVISER not a skill dictator. If you feel like you need a skill that isn’t “advised” be willing to bend the plan to your needs.

I mean, that’s just a guess. We’ll see. Given the 4 year anniversary event going on, leveling is super fast (you get a 100% experience buff). You now get ‘level up rewards’ and at low levels you get a lot of gear that is +exp as well. I created my new character Saturday evening and hit 20 by end of day Sunday…I’m going to guess 6 hours total play time maybe? And I wasn’t really hurrying, just playing the game and enjoying the ride.

Poor Far Cry 5 got kicked to the curb during all this, but as a single player game it’ll wait. I’m really enjoying this 100% exp buff ride so I think I’ll stick with ESO for the next week until the event ends.

I tuned into one of these “Show of the Week” features that gaming YouTube channels like to do, and one of the hosts was talking about Far Cry 5. He wasn’t finding it very fun. He said he felt like he had a good handle on the game as he’d been playing for 5 or 6 hours and had cleared the first area.

I’ve been playing Far Cry 5 as well, and I’m having a lot of fun. I have also cleared the first area. The difference is, I’ve put 25 hours into the game so far. Clearly this YouTuber and I approach the game in very different ways, which got me thinking.

When I play an open world game, I just kind of let events sweep me along. I tend to avoid shortcuts like fast travel and so as often as not when I’m heading from point A to point B to do a quest, I’ll get distracted four or five times along the way. To me, that’s where the fun in these games lies. This is probably also why I’m not too fussed about if the story is any good. I know the micro-stories that come with side missions have made me laugh out loud at times, and moved me at others. But the ‘big story’ is almost incidental to me.

Other times I’ll jump in a car to go somewhere and a good song will be playing on the car’s radio so I’ll just joyride around for a while, listening to the music and watching the world whiz by.

I’m not claiming to be playing these games the “right” way and accusing this YouTuber of playing them wrong. I’m just playing them my way. I almost always ‘roleplay’ to some extent when I’m gaming. I just like to imagine I’m in some real world as much as possible.

So while I was pondering all this, my mind went back to my MMO days. I remember having heated discussions about fast travel in MMOs. I was against it, most people were for it. Most people felt like fast travel was a real convenience and not having it was disrespectful of a player’s time. I thought that forcing players to travel through the world was a good way to keep them immersed in the world, as well as keeping the scale of the world large.

History has shown that my opinion was the less popular one but deep down inside I still think I was right and one of the reasons MMOs don’t seem to be as ‘sticky’ any more is that they have so many convenience features that they no longer feel like virtual worlds. That said, as I’ve more or less abandoned MMOs I no longer care very much. These big open worlds that the game press loves to hate on are my bread and butter these days and have replaced MMOs for me.

Anyway, I feel bad for this YouTube fellow who is apparently plowing through Far Cry 5 as quickly as he can. I think he is missing out. For me, all the best times I’ve had have come from side quests, exploring and random encounters and for him to have taken down the first lieutenant inside of 5 or 6 hours, he must be ignoring all that good stuff. I dunno, maybe he has a review due. Nothing can ruin a game more than playing it with a deadline looming over your head.

I had yesterday off and spent an inordinate amount of time playing Far Cry 5 (something like 12 hours). Not enough to do a ‘review’ but enough to debate/debunk some of the negative reviews I’ve seen, so I wanted to do that.

Far Cry 5 is, duh, part of the Far Cry series. While it may not be true of the earliest Far Cry games, the last few have been wacky. Far Cry 5 is wacky too. So when you read reviews saying the story is no good or the developers squandered an opportunity to make a meaningful political statement, just understand that reviewer doesn’t play Far Cry games. If you DO and you enjoy them, you’ll enjoy Far Cry 5. Faulting Far Cry 5 for this is like faulting a Saints Row game for not having a serious story.

Mind you, there ARE some political jabs in there. For example an audio recording of someone running for mayor on a platform of keeping out Canadians. His plan is to build a border wall and move it 1″ north every year until Canada is part of the US “again.” Same rant talks about ketchup chips in the way some other politicians talk about tortillas. It’s ridiculous, I found it funny, and it is easy to walk away from.

I just feel like some outlets are going out of their way to find fault with the game. For instance Eurogamer had a problem with the fact that both sides of the conflict are made up of a diverse group of people, saying it “feels like a careful sanitising of the subject matter.” This is why I’d never be a game developer. If you don’t include a mix of races and genders you get accused of racism or sexism, if you do include a diverse population you get accused of sanitizing.

I’ve seen some odd blowback on micro-transactions which is RIDICULOUS. In this case it’s mostly journalists saying they are no big deal and gamers getting frothed up about how evil they are. In Far Cry 5 you’ll encounter shops to buy weapons and vehicles. Everything can be purchased with in-game money that you get from fallen enemies, completing quests, cracking safes and the like. Some of the more expensive items have the OPTION of buying them with “silver bars.” You can actually find silver bars in-game, or if you prefer you can purchase them with real money. Thing is, the in-game costs aren’t crazy anyway. The most expensive thing I can recall seeing was something like $7,000 and by the end of my day of playing I think I had $12,000 in my account, and that’s with buying lots of stuff and not making any concerted attempt to earn/save. It’s also worth noting that as you play you unlock better and better tiers of gear and you have to have stuff unlocked to buy it.

In other words if for some reason you have a stick up your ass about some other gamer buying Far Cry 5 and spending real money on the best weapon in the game the minute he starts playing…he can’t. He’d have to unlock it first. And since it is primarily a single player game why do you care anyway?

Some reviews talk about the bugs and this is a legit concern. There are some glitches here and there, and the sound in particular goes wonky now and then (where everyone sounds like they are talking to you through a tin can) but this is typical launch day jank stuff and doesn’t impact gameplay much. But for example I encountered a civilian driver burning out in reverse with the car’s front wheels apparently locked up and he just did that, creeping backwards down the road, until I got bored of watching him. It was just a random NPC so it had no impact, it was just weird. And honestly kind of amusing.

Anyway, I don’t want to write a huge wall of text about this, but I want to assure you that if you’ve enjoyed Far Cry 5 games, you’re probably going to enjoy this one too. There’s that same carefree sense of madness that we’ve come to expect where shit is blowing up and on fire and suddenly a wolverine charges into a firefight and changes the dynamic and all the while regular people come flying down the road in their cars and try to thread their way through the burned out husks of cult cars and ATVs as if it’s just a typical day of Sunday traffic.

It’s fun. I played it for 12 damned hours on day 1 and can’t wait to get back at it.

(For whatever reason, the audio on this clip is out of sync, but that’s an issue with the clip, not experienced in the game itself.)

This still isn’t my post about why I don’t like Sea of Thieves. Maybe that post will never get written. Heck I’ll just summarize:

I like how gorgeous the game is.
I like the sailing model…perfect balance of ‘game’ and ‘reality’ IMO

Everything else I don’t like.

OK with that out of the way… I’m not sure why I’m so obsessed with a game I don’t like. I think mostly it is because Microsoft has been ramming it down my throat for months (probably not down your throat unless you’re an Xbox gamer who follows Xbox folks in your social medias). I was really hyped for it because I’m a good little drone, and then it sucked ass and I can’t let it go.

For that reason I still hate-follow the game. A lot of conversation has been around the nature of the community. Is it toxic? Is it great? Depends on who you are and what you like. But one argument suggesting that the community is exactly what it should be keeps coming up: the name. In response to complaints about getting thrown into the brig as soon as you spawn into a game, or having the turn-in NPCs camped by bigger crews, or other disruptive behavior, I keep seeing some variation on “The game is called Sea of Thieves, this is exactly how it should be played.”

I find this kind of interesting. If the game had been “Fantasy Sailing Adventure” would the current behavior suddenly be not-OK? Did Rare deliberately market-research a name that would pull in the griefers? I don’t THINK so. One of my frustrations with Sea of Thieves is that in all their marketing interviews Rare paints a picture of a fun adventure game where you can go anywhere and do anything and all kinds of play are supported. They’ve also talked about their strategies for combating toxic behavior (spoiler: the brig is one of those and we can see how badly it has failed).

I still hope that some day Rare offers “private servers” or a PvE-only mode. Let me fire up a session that only my friends can join. I have no interest in being the ‘prey’ for a crew of players bored and looking for something to do. Of course without the PvP there’s not much to hold a player’s interest since there is no meaningful progression and the quests are fairly repetitive. Maybe what Rare really should do is sell the engine to a developer that knows how to make an actual game. And they can call it “Sea of Faux-Pirates Who Should Not Gank” or something like that.